The mobile gaming market remains one of the most lucrative and important in the whole app economy. With Supercell valued at over $3bn, King turning its IPO around with the launch of Candy Crush Soda Saga 2 and Kim Kardashian reportedly making tens of millions of dollars from Glu’s mobile sensation, grabbing even a small slice of the pie can help you create a successful and profitable business.
But while the early days of the mobile industry were marked with numerous break through successes, the mature market of 2015 is much harder to break into. As mobile app marketing costs grow, game quality ramps up and consumer expectations increase, finding a foothold can be tricky.
So to help you out, we’ve identified some of the key trends that may help you to find that all-important angle to succeed. In the first of a two part series ahead of The Afternoon Club’s Zero to Hero mobile gaming event on the 19th January, we’re taking a look at the major trends in mobile game monetisation and development.
Sustainable Free To Play
As we’ve already touched upon, free to play remains the best way of making money in the mobile industry. But with the rise of consumer rights regulation across the world, players fed up of punishing energy mechanics and developers who understand fulfilling free experiences, sustainable free to play is very much on the rise.
Last year alone, two of the biggest free to play titles championed this model. Blizzard’s runaway successful card battler Hearthstone transported traditional deck building mechanics fairly to mobile, while War Gaming’s World of Tanks delivered a genuinely thrilling and complete free to play tank battling experience.
And though those may also be big name titles, it’s clear that a more sustainable approach to free to play monetisation is the way forwards – a boon to the likes of Kuato who are pioneering the free model in the educational space.
In further good monetisation news for indies in particular, the paid model has seen something of a revival in the past year. As the biggest companies have vacated the paid charts in favour of the riches of free to play, canny and creative indies capable of keeping their costs down have been able to succeed using the premium app model.
Combined to Apple’s barely hidden preference for paid titles, this has allowed titles like Bossa Studios’ Surgeon Simulator, UsTwo’s Monument Valley and Inkle’s 80 Days to both top the paid charts and receive critical acclaim across the world.
While the paid app route certainly won’t ever be as profitable as the free to play route, a well-run and creative paid indie can more than live off the hundreds of thousands of pounds available to a successful title in 2015 onwards.
VR and Wearables
But monetisation isn’t the only exciting area mobile gaming is expanding into. The wearable gaming opportunity is likely to open with the Apple Watch’s release later this year, while Samsung’s Gear VR has shown there is an opportunity to create really interesting and immersive experiences using mobile tech in the future.
On the wearable front, the likes of Six to Start, responsible for running game Zombies, Run! have already started work on a wearable version of their ambient game, while Handy Games in Germany and are allowing players to reduce wait times in game by moving around.
And as for VR, the likes of NDreams and Fireproof Studios have shown the potential for immersive gaming experience with the intriguing teasers for their titles Gunner and Omega Agent. Whether VR will go mainstream next year is difficult to say, but with developers and consumers alike enjoying the experience these pioneers may be well placed to capitalise upon a revolutionary change in the mobile gaming industry.
Developing a service based back end
Finally, the world of mobile development will be benefitting from continued support from service providers and hardware manufacturers. But with a market full of new app stores, changes to hardware and ever increasing numbers of devices on the market there are many areas developers need to consider.
App fragmentation is chief among them. While most still focus on iOS, those who are able to use a service like Unity, Marmalade or Apportable to get onto new stores will be able to exploit opportunities such as Amazon’s niche, but valuable, app store.
Beyond that though, some other key technical issues remain to hand. Managing the service elements in games, such as saves, leader boards and multiplayer, means that developers need smarter cloud solutions from the likes of Intel. And the continued rise of games as a service means that developers need to work hard to implement support, forums and regular updates.
Those able to do so will then be able to learn to cope with the other major development challenge: scaling up operations to help serve thousands, maybe millions, of daily players.
The Afternoon Club will be running their free to attend Zero to Hero event on the 19th January as part of London Mobile Games Week. Supported by Tapjoy, Kuato Studios, Dimoso, GamesGrabr, NDreams, UKIE, Bossa Studios and Yodel Mobile, you can read more and sign up here.